Is Long Form Content Dead?
In mid-October, Social Media Examiner, which had been producing a number of long video shows for Facebook, declared that "no one was watching their videos" and announced that they were stopping production of two shows and moving a third exclusively to YouTube.
While this wasn't the first, and certainly will not be the last time there's a media assault on long form content, due to the nature and reputation of Social Media Examiner, this announcement created ripples throughout the social media community.
Is long form content dead? Does that include written content, or just video? Is it only dead on Facebook?
This is where I see the conversation lacking perspective. YouTube as a video platform is now approaching their 14th birthday. And even though it started in 2005 and had some early successes, it wasn't until 2009 - 4 years later - that YouTube usage really hit its stride.
What am I saying?
That it's WAY too early in Facebook Video's timeline of existence to make judgement calls. This isn't a startup social network like Blab, but rather a robust ecosystem and mature platform. Just as they did with Google+, Facebook can afford to take their time and make sure that what is implemented will be used long-term and effectively eliminate the competition.
As more people become adept at creating video specifically for the Facebook platform, and Facebook continues to make it easier to find such content (i.e. Facebook Watch), more and more people will make Facebook videos an intentional destination. They will want to watch long videos on Facebook just as they do today on YouTube or Netflix.
And if you're creating videos for Facebook and aren't getting tremendously high retention rates, that just might be OK. Stephanie Liu of Lights, Camera, Live put it this way:
It's OKAY because I know that my viewers are busy folks and can't always tune in when I'm live.
It's OKAY because fans know that they can always watch the replay on-demand on their own schedule.
It's OKAY because fans will go to my website and read the blog transcript.
It's OKAY because live streaming is still giving me referrals and building my bottom line.
It's OKAY because I can build a custom audience from views.
And it's OKAY because the magic always happens in the inbox...
At the end of the day, know what works for your audience and if it isn't working, it's OKAY to shift your strategy.
So it's clear that long Facebook videos may work for some and not others. Not everyone has the same experience or perspective, which means that, if nothing else, it's hard to say something as definitive as, "Long form video on Facebook is dead." On the other hand, is short form content like tweets dead as well? Are people's attention spans shorter, or is content just bad? Which form of content "is the future?"
One of our 360 Marketing Squad group members was understandly confused by the claims and hype that he's seeing daily.
The idea that a particular form of content "is the future" suggests that it will dominate so much as to make the other form extinct.
The death of blogging has been predicted many times, and the same has been said for podcasts, and now video...
Guess what, we're still reading text as a society. And that is not going to change any time soon.
What's lacking when someone makes claims like that is context. Where is the content being shared? With whom? Is it any good?
No one has time for BAD content whether it's long or short or a single emoji.
And some people do not have time for some forms of content which they happen to find at a particular time and place. This is where an understanding of, say, "mobile use of a platform" or "targeted demographic" comes into play, and exactly what Stephanie was referring to above.
If you're targeting busy professionals who are overwhelmed at work and have a frustrating 45 minute commute every morning, a podcast might be the best way to reach them - assuming they have time for your solution.
You see, reaching a target demographic is just the beginning. You also have to convert and serve that target. If some of the people do not have time to read your blog posts, and you're selling an ebook, they're not going to have time to read that either! Which might be just fine - they may have self-selected themselves out of your target audience.
But the idea that everyone no longer consumes long-form content - whether it's written or video - is a false narrative. Some people do not have time for some content some of the time. My logic professor would have a fit of apoplexy reading some of the marketing hype today.
"Blogging is dead." - found on a blog post.
"Facebook video is dead." - found in a Facebook video.
"Short form content is dead." - found right here, in my long-form post. ;)
There is a sliver of truth in these rumors and bold claims, just like anything else that's hyped. And that truth is that people's patience with content is lower than ever.
You used to be able to create long squeeze pages and people would actually keep reading and reading and continue to get excited about whatever widget you were selling, believing the hype and "reviews" and they'd click on those Buy buttons again and again.
You used to be able to hire foreign copywriters for $0.01/word to churn out 500 word articles to help your site rank in search engines.
Those techniques are so '90's.
Today, both consumers and technology are better able to spot the crap when they see it.
Yes, people are busy. Yes, they're bombarded by content in multiple shapes and forms. But will they refuse to read a long article or watch a long video if it's awesome?
HubSpot surveyed 1000 companies to determine how often they were blogging, what the length of those articles was, and the success that they achieved. Among the wealth of information gleaned, they determined that articles longer than 2500 words received more traffic, more leads, and more bottom-line-driving sales as a result.
And BuzzSumo in a similar study found that articles longer than 2500 words garnered more social shares than others.
Taken together, it's clear that long-form articles perform better for content marketing. So why do we keep hearing that short whatever is better?
Because it's easier.
It's easier to create a 50 word social post than a 2500 word blog post. It's easier to shoot a 2 minute video than a 20 minute tutorial.
But there's no meat to those shorter posts. No long-term value.
But the value that's found (traffic, leads & sales) is something that only the originating business can determine and share. No one here knows how much traffic and business results my most successful blog content gets unless I tell you.
What the public can see is initial social engagement. How many likes, comments and shares. But that's such a terrible metric. If that was an indicator of success we'd all just film ourselves in our cars wearing funny masks.
So my advice is to push back on such claims. Question the relevancy to you and your audience. Are they just repeating the claims and hype that they've been hearing themselves?
Consider what it is that you are doing and how your audience is receiving that. Perhaps you're creating great long form content (as Social Media Examiner most assuradly was) and yet it's not working for you. "It's OKAY to shift your strategy." Just do so with a calculating eye.
"Hype is dead."
Want to have more professional advice like this, from folks like Jenn Herman and Stephanie Liu and Amanda Robinson and myself, whenever you need it? Check out our 360 Marketing Squad private Facebook Group.
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By Mike Allton, Content Marketing Practitioner
Mike is a Content Marketing Practitioner - a title he invented to represent his holistic approach to content marketing that leverages blogging, social media, email marketing and SEO to drive traffic, generate leads, and convert those leads into sales. He is an award-winning Blogger, Speaker, and Author at The Social Media Hat, and Brand Evangelist at Agorapulse (formerly CMO at SiteSell).
As Brand Evangelist, Mike works directly with other social media educators, influencers, agencies and brands to explore and develop profitable relationships with Agorapulse.Follow @Mike_Allton